News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 239-9722
Archive for September, 2011
  • Defendants Conducting Mining Activities To Pay $8,000 Penalty for Alleged Water Pollution Violations

    Posted by on September 28, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently accepted the parties' stipulation and proposed settlement in People v. American Excavation & Septic Services, Inc., Case No. PCB 11-55, which concerned a site located at 8937 West Stagecoach Trail in Galena, Jo Daviess County, Illinois. The State alleged that the defendants violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act and environmental reg...
  • Please Join Us for Adopt-a-Beach Cleanup on Saturday

    Posted by on
    As co-chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, I invite you to join us for an Adopt-a-Beach clean-up event this Saturday, October 1, 2011, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at Oak Street Beach, located at 1000 North Lake Shore Drive. We will conduct litter removal and monitoring and complete beach health assessments. Please register for the event ...
  • Environmental Register for August 2011

    Posted by on September 27, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued its Environmental Register for August 2011. The Environmental Register features a letter from Chairman Girard, which discusses progress that the Board made in several rulemaking dockets. The Environmental Register also contains an appellate update, a rulemaking update, a summary of actions of the Board, a summary of new cases, a listing of provis...
  • Environmental Lawsuit Against McDonald’s Corp. Dismissed for Lack of Standing

    Posted by on September 21, 2011
    The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently issued an opinion in Gencarelli v. McDonald's Corp. that dismissed a lawsuit against McDonald's alleging environmental violations.  Plaintiff alleged that McDonald's harms the environment because its food packaging contains chemicals that harm the environment when they are discarded by customers.  Plaintiff also alleged tha...
  • Seventh Circuit Affirms $100,000 Penalty Against Parties That Started Construction of Power Plant without Permit

    Posted by on September 19, 2011
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion in Sierra Club v. Khanjee Holdings (US) Inc., No. 09-4008, in which the Court affirmed the trial court's assessment of a $100,000 civil penalty, plus attorney's fees of the plaintiff, against the defendants that started construction of a power plant without a permit.  This case involved an application to the Illinois EPA...
  • Please Join Us For Upcoming CBA Events!

    Posted by on September 16, 2011
    As Co-Chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, I invite you to attend two upcoming events. (1) Please join us for our committee meeting on September 22nd at 12:15 pm at the Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court.  Our meeting will feature Jennifer Hesse, who is an attorney at the City of Chicago Department of Environment. For mo...
  • Property Owner Fined $3,000 for Violating Asbestos Regulations

    Posted by on September 14, 2011
    The Illinois Pollution Control Board recently ordered a property owner to pay a $3,000 civil penalty for violating asbestos regulations in People v. Landers, Case No. PCB 07-13.  This case concerned demolition of a building located at 1229 West Jackson Street in Auburn, Sangamon County, Illinois. The State alleged that the property owner violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act by f...

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    The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the federal government’s ability to criminally prosecute environmental activists who destroy property under the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”).

    In United States v. Johnson, the defendants travelled from Los Angeles, California to a mink farm in Morris, Illinois. The mink farm was in the business of breeding, raising, and selling minks to fur manufacturers. At the mink farm, the defendants released approximately 2000 minks from their cages. They also removed portions of the fence surrounding the mink farm to help the minks escape, and they destroyed the minks’ breeding cards, which were needed to sell the minks to a furrier. In addition, they poured caustic substances on two farm vehicles and spray-painted the words “Liberation is Love” on a barn. The vandalism caused between $120,000 and $200,000 worth of damage. The defendants then began traveling to a fox farm in Roanoke, Illinois, which bred foxes to sell to fur manufacturers. They planned to damage the fox farm as well, but they were arrested by local law enforcement before they arrived at the fox farm. The defendants were charged in state court with possession of burglary tools and were convicted. They were sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

    Then, the defendants were charged with violating the AETA by the federal government. Count I of the indictment alleged that they conspired to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of damaging and interfering with the operation of an animal enterprise, and in connection with that purpose, damaged the property of an animal enterprise. Count II alleged that the defendants damaged real and personal property used by an animal enterprise. The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment against them, asserting that the AETA was facially overbroad, was unconstitutionally vague, and violated substantive due process because it labeled persons who committed the act as “terrorists”. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss.

    The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s ruling that rejected all of the defendants’ arguments. In particular, the defendants suggested that the AETA prohibited advocacy that caused damage to only intangible property such as profits or goodwill. The court rejected that argument and held that the AETA prohibited destruction of or damage to tangible items and property owned by the animal enterprise. In fact, the court looked at the legislative history of the AETA, which reinforced the conclusion that it was not intended to criminalize speech or expressive conduct that caused damage only to the animal enterprise’s profits or goodwill. Several legislators made statements indicating that, while the statute was being passed to combat the violence being perpetrated against animal enterprises as well as people and entities connected to animal enterprises, Congress was aware of the importance of protecting the First Amendment right to engage in lawful protest against animal enterprises. In particular, the court looked at a speech by Senator Feinstein stating: “I fully recognize that peaceful picketing and public demonstrations against animal testing should be recognized as part of our valuable and sacred right to free expression. For this reason, all conduct protected by the First Amendment is expressly excluded from the scope of this legislation. This law effectively protects the actions of the law-abiding protester while carefully distinguishing the criminal activity of extremists.” In summary, the court found that the text of the statute as well as the legislative history made clear that the statute does not criminalize speech or expressive conduct that causes damage only to intangible profits or goodwill of an animal enterprise.

    The Seventh Circuit had an easy task in this case, deciding to interpret the statute to criminalize destructive conduct but keeping the door open to reasonable protests that do not harm private property. Environmental activists need to be aware of this line in the sand that has been drawn by Congress and the courts.
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    1 week ago  ·